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London Broil vs. Brisket: What These Labels Really Mean

What’s the difference between brisket and London broil? Since some cuts of meat go by various monikers, it can be difficult to keep them all straight. We’re here to provide you with the full rundown on London broil vs brisket.

London Broil vs Brisket

The term “London broil” refers to a cooking method, while brisket is a cut of beef. It’s typical to use a lean cut like flank steak or top round to make London broil, which is seared over high heat. Meanwhile, brisket is tough and fatty, with a lot of connective tissue that needs time to cook down.

Brisket 101

The brisket is cut from the lower chest region of the steer, near the ribcage. The muscles are responsible for supporting a great deal of the animal’s weight. That means the cut is naturally tough, with plenty of connective tissue.

A whole beef brisket is quite large, usually weighing 10 to 15 pounds. As you can imagine, that makes it difficult to handle, especially if you need to transport it to an outdoor smoker.

Butchers will often divide the brisket into its two subprimal cuts. These are smaller and therefore cook more quickly, making the entire process less intimidating.

The flat, also called the “first cut,” usually weighs 6 to 10 pounds. This is the leaner portion of the brisket, although there should be a fat cap running along the exterior. Its rectangular shape and unidirectional grain make it easy to slice.

The other subprimal is called the point. Weighing in around 4 to 7 pounds, it has an irregular shape and plenty of intramuscular fat. This cut is juicier than the flat, but the meat is better when it’s shredded, as the grain may run in different directions.

London Broil 101

Contrary to a popular misconception, London broil isn’t actually a cut of beef. Instead, the term refers to a preparation method—and not one that originated in London, either, although its precise origins remain unclear.

A true London broil is a very lean steak that’s been treated to a marinade made from acidic ingredients. Vinegar and soy sauce are popular choices, but the marinade should also include salt and a bit of sugar.

It’s important to point out that while some chefs use the term “London broil” to refer to the marinating process, others might skip the marinade completely. We think the marinade is an essential component when it comes to London broil, but it’s only the first step.

After seasoning and trimming the steaks, chefs will grill them quickly over high heat. It’s also acceptable to pan-sear them in a hot skillet with a pat of butter. Since the steaks used for London broil are so lean, you shouldn’t cook them past medium-rare.

Once the steak is cooked, it needs to rest for at least 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Just before serving, the meat is carved against the grain into thin slices.

Can You Use Brisket For London Broil?

As you may have surmised from the above descriptions, brisket and London broil aren’t exactly interchangeable.

Even the leaner flat half of the brisket needs to be cooked for a long time at a low temperature in order to tenderize the meat. If it’s not cooked to at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit, the brisket will come out tough and stringy.

For London broil, you’ll want to use a lean cut that can handle just a few minutes of cooking per side. Flank steak is one popular choice, but you can also use steaks from the top blade or top round.

When you’re at the butcher counter and you see a steak labeled “London broil,” it’s probably a flank steak. However, it’s a good idea to ask the butcher which cut they used, just so you know exactly what you’re getting.

In short, it’s not a good idea to use brisket in London broil recipes. While both can be tender and delicious with the right preparation, they require very different techniques in order to get there.

London Broil vs Brisket: Breaking it Down

In case you’re having a hard time deciding which to choose, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of London broil vs brisket.

Price

For the sake of clarity, let’s assume that you’re planning on using flank steak for your London broil. Will that be cheaper than making smoked brisket?

Flank steak usually costs $9 to $14 per pound. On average, a per-pound price of $12 is considered reasonable. That means 3 pounds of flank steak will run you about $36.

The per-pound price for brisket typically runs lower—about $5. However, as we pointed out, these cuts are so big that the difference won’t save you much money. What’s more, stores usually charge more ($8 to $11) for the flat, since the cut is leaner.

You can expect a 7-pound brisket flat to cost at least $50—the same price as a 10-pound whole packer. Even if you’re able to score a better deal, there are serving size considerations to contend with as well. For more information, see the section below.

Serving Sizes

For London broil, you can plan on about 1/2 pound of raw steak per person. The meat will shrink down a bit as it cooks, but this is a good estimate to follow when it comes to leaner cuts.

Brisket, on the other hand, will shrink down a lot more during the smoke. Thanks to the high fat content and long cooking process, you should expect a total meat yield of 1/2 pound of cooked meat for every pound of raw brisket.

Plan on buying at least 1 pound of brisket for every guest on your list. That will give you about 1/2 pound of cooked brisket per person—a generous estimate, but one that should allow for plenty of leftovers.

To put it in perspective, let’s say you’re expecting 8 guests. You’ll need 4 pounds of London broil steak for a crowd this size. Based on what we learned earlier, that translates into about $48 in meat costs.

A group of 8 people will require 8 pounds of raw brisket. Since it’s tough to find a whole packer this small, you might have to round up and get a 10-pounder, which will run you about $50.

If you can find a brisket flat that weighs in at 8 pounds, it will probably cost at least $64. This makes the London broil a better deal in terms of per-person cost.

Fat Content

A whole beef brisket is considered a fatty cut of meat, although the point contains more intramuscular fat than the flat. While the flat can be classified as lean, it may turn out too dry if you don’t leave at least 1/4 inch of the fat cap intact during the smoke.

By contrast, London broil is made from lean cuts of beef. The flank, located on the underbelly of the steer, is naturally lean, and therefore a good fit for this method.

When it comes to steak, a low fat content is often equated with a lack of flavor. Thanks to the marinade and the quick-cooking nature of the method, though, this shouldn’t be the case with London broil.

Texture

When you cook brisket for at least 1.5 hours per pound at 225 degrees, the collagen breaks down and the intramuscular fat has a chance to render slowly. This gives the meat an appealingly tender texture, in spite of the fact that the meat is naturally tough.

Similarly, London broil will be chewy and tough if it’s overcooked. That’s why it’s crucial not to let the temperature creep past 130 degrees before taking it off the grill.

You should always slice both London broil and brisket across the grain. If you slice the meat with the grain, each bite will contain longer strands of muscle fiber, and therefore be more difficult to chew.

Preparation Techniques

As we mentioned, brisket needs to cook for a long time before it achieves that mouthwatering tenderness. A 10-pound brisket could be on the smoker for as long as 20 hours, so be sure you’re prepared to make the commitment.

You only need to marinate London broil for 2 to 3 hours before firing up the grill. Once it’s on the heat, it should sear for just a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. After a 5-minute rest, you’re ready to slice and serve the steak.

Don’t make the mistake of smoking a London broil steak for several hours. The meat doesn’t have enough fat and connective tissue to achieve the right texture when it’s cooked this way.

Final Thoughts

London broil and brisket can both be tough and unpalatable when they’re not done correctly—and delicious when done right. Aside from that, it’s important not to confuse the two.

Happy grilling!